Flu shots for pregnant women protect newborns after birth

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Influenza virons.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Late term pregnancy flu shots continue to protect newborns after birth, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. This gives reason for more expectant mothers to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and obtain a flu shot during flu season. Only 15% of women in the United States receive the vaccination during pregnancy, although the CDC has advised this preventive treatment for the past 11 years.

The study was conducted in Bangladesh on a group of 340 pregnant women during third trimester and reduced the risk of respiratory illness among the mothers by 36 percent. The benefit to their infants was even greater: 63 percent reduction in influenza incidence and an overall reduction of respiratory illness by 29 percent. The study found 6 confirmed cases of influenza in the vaccinated group compared to 16 cases among the mothers of a control group.

Late term pregnancy flu vaccination represents an important window for preventive treatment because the flu vaccine is not recommended for infants less than 6 months old. Infants under the age of 6 months also run the highest risk of dying from the flu.